It is approaching 8:00 CT as I write this post, and I am feeling a bit melancholy as we make our preparations for our return to Knoxville this afternoon. It has been a good trip. I was optimistic that we would be able to make this one, but Kate’s decline in the past six months made me wonder if we would make it. I am glad we did. It was special to spend Thanksgiving with Kevin and his family. It wouldn’t have been the same had we remained at home; however, it’s been a bitter sweet trip.
As I have noted before, her feelings for Texas have been stronger in the past few years, and she still occasionally mentions the possibility of a move back. In fact, she said something to me about that possibility since we have been here. As she has done a few times in the past, she asked what I thought we would do about moving. I told her I wasn’t sure. I suggested that we remain in Knoxville right now and see how things unfold. She accepted that without comment. At this stage she tends to follow my lead.
Despite her Texas pride, she has not expressed any special enthusiasm for being here, having Texas BBQ, or eating Tex-Mex. She also loves her children and grandchildren. She does not always remember that she has them, but when she does, she expresses her feelings about them. It was different this time. I believe most of that is because she is unable to remember who they are. At dinner last night she was unclear of who we were sitting with. I gave her the name of each person, but she couldn’t remember them. As she did when Kevin visited Knoxville in September, she said things that were clear signs of her Alzheimer’s. Last night for example, she asked, “Where are we?” as we were eating dinner. If she can’t remember where she is or who she is with, one can easily understand that it is hard to express enthusiasm for being here with her family.
Before we left the restaurant last night, Kate said she would like to use the restroom. I walked her to the door and waited for her. As she walked in, a woman was just leaving. Kate said something to her. The woman responded and then walked by me. I told her that Kate has Alzheimer’s and asked here if there were anything that Kate might find confusing. I mentioned that she has had occasional trouble getting out of the restroom. She said she didn’t notice anything that might present a problem. A few minutes later, Rachel, Kevin’s wife, asked if I would like her to go inside to help Kate if she needed anything. I told her I thought she would be all right and that I would just wait for her. It wasn’t long before I heard a knock on the door. I opened it. Kate was standing there. She was relieved to see me. I don’t know why, but she had been unable to open the door. My guess is that she tried to push it open rather than pulling it open. It is just one other reminder of the challenges faced by people with dementia everywhere they go. There are a million little things like this that we take for granted.
As we leave today, I won’t be thinking just about this as Kate’s last trip to Texas. I will also think of it as a point marking a change in my own life. We met in Fort Worth. We were married there. We lived there for two years after our wedding, and we have made regular trips to visit family in Texas ever since. We return now to Knoxville, our home for the past 47 years, but I carry with us memories of very special moments Kate and I have shared in Texas. I only wish she were able to remember them as well.